Correspondence of Monks


Shakushi ōrai (Correspondence of monks) is a collection of Japanese letters written by Buddhist monks. This type of correspondence collection was created to provide model examples for letter writing and as a manual for learning calligraphy. The collection contains 27 groups of 54 letters, arranged chronologically by the month in which they were posted. The topics discussed in the letters concern services and prayers at temples and shrines, as well as matters pertaining to the promotion of the monks. The letters are presented in the format of questions and answers between senior monks or between monks and court nobles (individuals who served at the Imperial Court). The work is said to have been compiled by Cloistered Imperial Prince Shukaku (1150‒1202), a son of Emperor Goshirakawa, who was the monzeki (head priest) of Ninna-ji Temple, a major temple in Kyoto. It is believed that the scroll was used to educate the monks at high-ranking temples, such as Ninna-ji. This version from the National Diet Library is missing the first seven letters, so it has only 47 letters. Copied in the fourth year of the Shōan period (1302), it is known as the oldest extant copy of this work. It was designated an “Important Cultural Property” of Japan in 2012.

Date Created


Title in Original Language


Type of Item

Physical Description

1 scroll ; 30.2 centimeters


  1. “Newly designated Important Cultural Property— Shakushi ōrai (owned by the National Diet Library),” in National Diet Library Newsletter, number 186 (December 2012).

Last updated: May 31, 2016